Interview with Tantric and Heavens Edge bassist Jaron Gulino
INTERVIEW WITH TANTRIC AND HEAVENS EDGE BASSIST JARON GULINO
Date: April 13, 2022
Interviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato
They say that the five keys to success are determination, skill, passion, discipline and luck. With his star continuing to ascend, Tantric bassist Jaron Gulino seems to be well aware of those attributes and is fast on his way to achieving his goals as a career musician. In between full-time duties touring and recording with Tantric, he also records and performs with an array of other artists. To say that he has a solid work ethic would be a vast understatement of his much sought-after talents. He has a firm grip on the brass ring and isn’t letting go anytime soon. Sleaze Roxx checked in with Jaron following Tantric’s early April run through the Northeast to discuss the band’s newest album, his various side projects and what’s around the bend.
Sleaze Roxx: Hey Jaron, thanks for doing this interview. Tantric have a new album out called ‘The Sum of All Things’ on Cleopatra records. For people that might not have heard it yet, can you talk a little bit about the record and how it differs from [2018’s] ‘Mercury Retrograde’?
Jaron Gulino: Thank you, for having me! I would say ‘The Sum of All Things’ is a continuation of ‘Mercury Retrograde’ from a production standpoint. You are going to hear much of the modern rock tones and big sound like on ‘Mercury’, but this time the songs are a bit more collective. This one has more of an all-around rock feel.
Sleaze Roxx: What has the transition been like moving from Pavement Music over to the L.A. based Cleopatra Records for this album?
Jaron Gulino: It’s been an interesting process. Both labels have been good to us in different ways. It’s cool to see how each label works their product. Pavement was very much a radio-driven machine and focused on airplay. Cleopatra does dabble there as well, but their specialty is in the design and vibe of the release. I enjoy working with everyone involved at both labels.
Sleaze Roxx: Tantric waited almost three years to release this new album. Were the songs on ‘The Sum of All Things’ all written during that time or were any of these tracks carried over from writing sessions prior to that timeframe?
Jaron Gulino: Tantric has a large vault of demos and ideas. Hugo [Ferriera] always seems to have some magic in his treasure chest, so some of it was pulled from there. Sebastian [LaBar] provided the rest during the Covid summer months.
Sleaze Roxx: The band worked with veteran producer Chuck Alkazian this time around. Chuck has previously helmed projects for artists such as Chris Cornell and Sponge. How smoothly did that process flow given that Tantric have an established sound and write a lot of your own material?
Jaron Gulino: Chuck is very understanding of who we are musically, and where we want to be. He is a tremendous creative vehicle for that. He’s the fifth member that helps connect the dots.
Sleaze Roxx: The actual album cover art is very ominous and foreboding, but ties into the theme of the title track in that it depicts something great rising up amidst the chaos of the world. Am I correct in that interpretation or do you prefer to leave it up to listeners to take away their own meaning from it?
Jaron Gulino: I would say you are correct, while it’s still kind of up for interpretation. Hugo is very keen on writing that way. He tells a story but in a way that pertains to the listener relating. It’s all about feeling a connection.
Sleaze Roxx: I think that the label did a fantastic job with the packaging of the album in both the CD and colored vinyl / gatefold format. Both versions are still available at www.cleorecs.com. For all the collectors out there, the version of the LP on the Cleopatra site comes with a bonus 12” single. Can you tell us a bit about the bonus LP? It includes a really cool cover of Tim McGraw’s “Whiskey & You”, which is not on the standard version. How did the band decide to cover this song?
Jaron Gulino: The CD and vinyl packing was insane! They really knocked it out of the park. It’s always fun to have a vinyl copy of your own record. As far as the bonus single goes, that was just something they added last minute. Hugo was working on a country album during the time of ‘The Sum of All Things’ sessions, and this track is actually from that project. The rest of the band was not involved in that song/release.
Sleaze Roxx: The first time that I played the new album, two of my immediate favorites were “Compound” and “Living Here Without You”. With the bass cranked up, the latter has a really heavy sound and Hugo delivers those signature rapid-fire verses that he’s known for amongst fans. Can you divulge who or what that song was written about?
Jaron Gulino: Sebastian wrote the music and Hugo did the lyrics. They are very guitar driven songs, which I love! I contributed the bass lines, which was a blast to track to Jason Hartless. I think the guys did a killer job collaborating on those.
Tantric‘s “Living Here Without You” video:
Sleaze Roxx: “The Words to Say” is another one of the tracks on ‘The Sum of All Things’ that immediately reels the listener in. It has a very catchy chorus, and I can see that being a huge hit for the band. “Alone” is another one that I really like. It starts off with that slow bass groove and then Hugo’s baritone cuts through and the song really starts to cook. The harmonies are cool too. I can see both of these being prime candidates to play live. How has the reaction been to the new songs that you’ve added into the set?
Jaron Gulino: We’ve played about half of the album in our live set so far. It’s been fun changing up the setlist and I think the overall reaction to the new material has been excellent.
Sleaze Roxx: One of the elements that I really appreciate about the album is that there are songs on the heavier end of the spectrum, but yet they don’t sacrifice melody and hooks. Is that a principle that you try to adhere to when writing the songs or just the way that things worked out?
Jaron Gulino: Hugo is very conscious of creating a good hook. He’s beyond talented, and when someone has a riff or progression, he’s the first one to be free-styling over it and coming up with lyrics on the spot.
Sleaze Roxx: Your video for the first single “Walk That Way” turned out really cool. It has a unique look to it with the gritty editing and shots of the band performing in what appears to be a tunnel or boiler room. Who came up with the concept for the video and how did the shoot for it?
Jaron Gulino: We used Exceleration Media for this video. Adrienne Beacco was the same videographer that did the video for “Angry”, as well as many others for bands like Fozzy, Shaman’s Harvest, and Paralandra. It was a collaborative effort amongst the band and crew. Jake Jones is the second half of Exceleration Media, and he is the one responsible for the killer editing. It’s one of my favorite videos that I’ve been a part of.
Tantric‘s “Walk That Way” video:
Sleaze Roxx: Tantric have re-recorded two of its biggest hits as bonus tracks for ‘The Sum of All Things’ — “Down And Out” and “Breakdown”. Was that just to sort of re-introduce those songs to newer fans or were there things that the band wanted to improve upon [sonically] from the originally recorded versions?
Jaron Gulino: I don’t think the original recordings can really be improved upon. The label wanted the remakes as a part of our deal. The band didn’t really have any intention of doing that at all.
Sleaze Roxx: Your previous album ‘Mercury Retrograde’ had a lot of killer tracks on it such as “Lie Awake”, “Letting Go” and “Before You Could Crawl”. It was very much a continuation of what, I think, long-time fans would want to hear from the band. With a more extensive discography, does it get more difficult to keep listeners interested in new product?
Jaron Gulino: The band seems to really have a strong fan base, and the fans are always wanting more. Hugo does a great job at reeling the listener in. He connects deeply and emotionally to the listener, which keeps them coming back for more. The only difficulty would be choosing which songs to perform in the setlist.
Sleaze Roxx: I know that you’re a big fan of “’80s” rock and metal. What are some of your favorite bands and albums from that era?
Jaron Gulino: I’m more of a fan of the personnel than particular bands. Way too many to name… ’70s-’80s hard rock all the way. My heroes are George Lynch and Glenn Hughes. Their work ethic is absolutely insane! Pretty much anyone involved with those guys are killer. From [Ritchie] Blackmore to [Doug] Aldrich, [Black] Sabbath to Yngwie [Malmsteen]. I love the players. ‘Wicked Sensation’ by Lynch Mob is the holy grail LP for me. The ‘Headless Cross’ LP by Black Sabbath is an underrated gem.
Sleaze Roxx: I remember the first time that I saw Tantric live, the band performed a cover of Whitesnake’s “Is This Love”. I was totally not expecting to hear that from you guys. I love that there’s no musical “gatekeeping” in the band and you’re unabashed about your influences. Would you agree with that assessment of the band?
Jaron Gulino: There is always a way to make different styles of material work. However, there are certain sounds that just work fantastically with this band. Hugo really pours himself out on that one. We all love the classics!
Sleaze Roxx: 2020 obviously dealt a near death blow to a lot of bands, but Tantric still managed to play sporadic shows and stay afloat. Was there ever a point where that uncertainty made it scary to get out there [on the road] and what was that like?
Jaron Gulino: I think as long as you respect other people’s boundaries, it’s all good. We toured heavily during the pandemic. Mainly in the States that were accepting of the protocols and requirements. I’m happy to perform if everyone else is comfortable with it. The uncertainty was a bit scary at first, but once the smoke cleared, fans were rabid for it.
Sleaze Roxx: Tantric hit it big, pretty much right out of the gate, with “Breakdown”, “Astounded” and “Mourning” from the debut album back in 2001 — all phenomenal songs. Will those forever be staples of the live set or is the band able to get away with not playing them?
Jaron Gulino: We have pretty much done those at every show. They aren’t really songs that we can get away with leaving out. Recently, our big closing song has been “Mourning”, but sometimes it gets cut depending on time slots and festival settings, or simply us playing too long. Haha! Fans call out for those songs every single night.
Sleaze Roxx: The band has a sound that is not easily “labelled” and therefore makes it less able to be pigeonholed into one genre. You’re able to tour / play shows with a wide variety of bands. Do you think that enigmatic perception of Tantric has been a positive or negative thing for the band?
Jaron Gulino: I think it’s a good thing. When we are on stage, we are a raw rock band. When the energy is there, it pulls people in. We find ourselves playing with everyone from ’80s bands and modern bands and having crossover fans from those crowds. It helps broadcast to wider audiences. I love the diversity.
Sleaze Roxx: You also play bass in Heavens Edge, which are playing the M3 Rock Festival this year. You’re in very good company there. Can you tell us how you got involved with the band?
Jaron Gulino: I am very fortunate to have been asked at the end of 2019. Following the passing of original bassist [George] G.G. [Guidotti], the band decided that they wanted to carry on. Mark Evans was a friend from the local music scene on the east coast and asked if I would be interested in joining. As a huge fan for many years, it was almost impossible to decline. The guys are incredibly talented, and we have a blast playing together.
Sleaze Roxx: Heavens Edge were originally going to play last year’s festival but had to postpone that appearance. In light of that, will it be all the more rewarding to finally play one of the nation’s biggest rock festivals?
Jaron Gulino: Yes, for sure! I’ve been going to M3 since the very first year. I’ve missed a few over the years due to being on tour, but I try and go every year. Last year didn’t pan out, but I’m happy we will get to finally redeem ourselves. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the festival, so it’s a bucket list show for me.
Heavens Edge performing “Play Dirty” live at the Monsters of Rock Cruise in 2020 (video by Rockin’ Ron (R.I.P.) of Decibel Geek TV):
Sleaze Roxx: Some of the bands that I’m really interested to see are Lizzy Borden, The Quireboys and Switzerland’s Burning Witches. Are there any acts that you really want to catch?
Jaron Gulino: I look forward to seeing Yngwie, XYZ, Extreme, Skid Row… I really enjoy the entire event every year.
Sleaze Roxx: With Heavens Edge now active again, are there any plans for the band to release new music? Perhaps a new song or two?
Jaron Gulino: Yes, we have plans, and are far along in the process. Expect an announcement soon with more details.
Sleaze Roxx: Prior to joining Tantric, you got your first big break playing in Mach 22 and played on their ‘Sweet Talk Intervention’, ‘Like My Chances’ and ‘Working Off The Clock’ releases. Was it bittersweet when you finally moved on or did you just know that it was time to pursue new opportunities?
Jaron Gulino: I absolutely loved playing in the band. I knew the next step required something that not all of the members were able to commit to. When that opportunity appeared with Tantric, I knew it was the next logical step in my career.
Mach22‘s “Get Away” video:
Sleaze Roxx: That band landed a coveted opening slot for Bon Jovi back in 2017. Considering that the band was relatively new at the time, that had to have been a highlight. Can you tell us what that experience was like?
Jaron Gulino: The Bon Jovi show was cool. It was definitely the biggest show we did, in terms of attendance. We had played at Lincoln Financial Field opening for Guns N’ Roses in 2016, which was massive, but they put us on the moment they opened the gates, so we played for a fairly empty, monstrous stadium. When we did the Bon Jovi show, it was at the Wells Fargo Center, and it was packed! It felt good to get a little redemption with that. Jon was very kind, and cool as well.
Mach22‘s “Radio” live video (opening for Bon Jovi):
Sleaze Roxx: Playing in a rock n’ roll band also being a fan of this type of music, is it ever surreal to play shows and meet some of the artists that you may have grown up listening to?
Jaron Gulino: Yes, I literally remind myself of it every day. I live and breathe it, and don’t take anything for granted. I love every second.
Sleaze Roxx: As if you weren’t busy enough, you also recorded the bass tracks for Dellacoma’s new album ‘Blood’, which was released recently. You recorded these [tracks] with Anthony Esposito at his Obscenic Arts studio. Being a Lynch Mob fan yourself, what was it like to work with Anthony behind the console?
Jaron Gulino: Anthony is awesome! I always have a great time tracking with him. He really pushes me and encourages things that most producers wouldn’t take the time to do. It’s very organic, and the compound there is just insane. I trust his judgement stylistically, so it’s nice to have that type of perspective while bouncing ideas back and forth, being creative.
Sleaze Roxx: With Dellacoma [Rio] based out of Australia, how did you come to work with them?
Jaron Gulino: I have a long history with Dellacoma. I’ve known Del for years. Mach22 used to play with his band Sunset Riot. When that fell apart, Del started Dellacoma and we all pretty much cut our teeth together as the years went on. The original band line-up became some of our best friends over the years. We have all subbed for each other in our bands, which is pretty funny actually. I’ve toured with the band on and off since 2015, so it was only natural to do some recording together at some point. I really love the way the record came out. Anthony really killed it with the bass tone.
Sleaze Roxx: You recently launched The LIFE Project with Casandra Carson [Paralandra] and Josh Rand [Stone Sour], and have your first show coming up at the end of April. How did that come together, and can you tell us about this new project?
Jaron Gulino: This project was actually something Josh had been working on during his downtime from Stone Sour. He did all of the instrumentation and was looking to have a female vocalist come in to sing. The A&R guy at Roadrunner Records at the time was Dave Rath, who is my bandmate in Heavens Edge, and he contacted me asking if my girlfriend Casandra would be interested in auditioning. This all came together at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, they have done very well with two EP releases, and decided it was time to put together a band for live shows. After spending some time together with them in the studio and just tagging along on some of the work trips, things started to jell personally, and that led to being offered the spot in the band. I’m very excited about this. It’s not like anything that I’ve done in recent years. I love thrash and metal music, so this is scratching that particular itch for me. It’s a great challenge and I look forward to performing the songs live.
Sleaze Roxx: In addition to yourself, Casandra and Josh, who else is involved in the band?
Jaron Gulino: The band is about to make a full line-up announcement. We have a killer drummer out of Des Moines, Iowa named Celestino Ramirez, and the very talented Diana Weishaar on keys and backing vocals. The band has been sounding great in rehearsals!
Sleaze Roxx: Once again – thanks for doing this, Jaron. I recommend everyone out there check out Tantric’s new LP ‘The Sum of All Things’ and look for the band on tour this summer and beyond. Is there anything that you want to say to everyone out there reading this?
Jaron Gulino: Thanks for being interested in what I do, and I’m grateful for the love and support. Stay tuned for lots of new music. I’ll see you on the road!